The Center for the Study of Race, Politics, & Culture (CSRPC) is pleased to announce the 2021 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grantees!

"Race Studies Centers: Research, Teaching, and Partnerships," is a grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a four-year collaboration among Race Studies Centers at Brown University, the University of Chicago, Stanford University, and Yale University.  The Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture is pleased to announce our 2021 grantees.


Eve L. Ewing (Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice)
The Black Freedom Lectures

The Black Freedom Lectures is a free virtual lecture bringing together renowned Black scholars to share knowledge and spark discussion on topics with an explicit Black liberation lens. Inspired by Black-led grassroots education efforts going back over a century, these lectures will be free and open to all participants, but will center Black learners and the goal of Black freedom in their pedagogical design, with the understanding that—to quote historian Barbara Ransby—such a learning space “contextualizes the oppression, exploitation, and liberation of Black poor and working class people within the understanding, at least in the US context, that ‘once all Black people are free, all people will be free.’”

And we know that powerful learning happens with context and community. So each lecture will follow the following format:

·      Pre-reading: Participants will have access to a short reading to check out before the lecture.

·      Lecture: A free, close-captioned 30-60 minute talk by an amazing scholar discussing an issue imperative to Black liberation.

·      Squads: Why process everything on your own? We encourage you to form a “squad” of people committed to learning alongside you. It can be your book club, a church group, some interested coworkers, or just a few of the homies. Squads can meet together, talk about the lecture and the readings, and prepare any questions you have for the speaker.

·      Q&A: The lecturer will have a live Q&A with curator Eve L. Ewing or a special guest, asking some of the follow-up questions submitted by participants.

·      More to read: The lecturer will recommend one to two books for those participants who want to read more about the topic. We will also hold a raffle for a lecture attendee to receive a copy of one of the recommended books, purchased from our friends at the Black woman-owned Semicolon Bookstore.

Learn more at blackfreedomlectures.org.


Theaster Gates (Harris School of Public Policy)
The Sonic Imagination: A Transdisciplinary Retreat Lab

The Sonic Imagination: A Transdisciplinary Retreat Lab is a transdisciplinary working group and residency program. An extension of Theaster Gates’ ongoing Black Artist Retreat (B.A.R) initiative, Retreat Lab seeks to provide a shape-shifting pedagogical platform for artists and musicians of color in Chicago. Through this program, Retreat Lab artists in residence are offered a platform to elevate their genre-focused practices to new artistic and experimental forms through the thematic lens of the sonic imagination. Over the course of this year, residents will have unlimited access to the rich archives and collections housed at the Stony Island Arts Bank, and RETREAT – the former Currency Exchange Café in Washington Park – where they will realize a series of sonic activations. Residents are encouraged to develop, record, and produce an album, drawing inspiration from Rebuild Foundation’s collections. With generous support from the Mellon Foundation and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago, we hope to support new and experimental forms of music production, and culminate a series of live virtual performances led by residents and filmed onsite at RETREAT.


Land Art: A Monograph

Land Art: A Monograph Over the past 15 years, artist and University of Chicago professor Theaster Gates has broken new ground by complicating the relationship between relational artistic practices, land art, and sculpture. To date, the scholarship and journalism regarding Gates’ practice has focused more specifically on his identity, without extensively examining his execution of extremely complicated artistic legal and social projects. Land Art: A Monograph is a forthcoming monographic publication that charts Gates’ investment in the renewal and reactivation of Black spaces, objects, and materials, and his interrogations with land. Authored by Dr. Romi Crawford, a Senior Fellow at the Lunder Institute for American Art, and a Gray Center Fellow at the University of Chicago, this monograph represents an experimental foray into the complexity of the artist’s world and practice, and reflects on Gates’ interdisciplinarity and preoccupations with land, music, legal structures, and conventional artistic practice. Published in partnership with the artist, and with support from the Mellon Foundation, the Lunder Institute for American Art, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago, Land Art: A Monograph will comprise the most important and comprehensive publication on Gates’ work to date.


Melissa Gilliam (Office of the Provost)
Imagining Youth Reproductive Justice

Described in 1994 by twelve US-based Black women, the intellectual tradition of reproductive justice (RJ) served to transcend the limited framing of sexual and reproductive health as pro-choice or pro-life. Since then, RJ has expanded to account for the needs of women in the Global South and has absorbed a variety of intellectual influences. RJ centers the contribution of Black women creating a transformative vision for sexual and reproductive health, resource allocation, and family formation.  Adolescent sexual and reproductive health has become mired in debates about sexuality education and statistics about teen pregnancy, and merits new thinking. Funding from Mellon/CSRPC will be used to conduct two storytelling workshops to inform a monograph about the theories, methods, and findings from The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3), putting these practices in dialogue with reproductive justice. Ci3 centers young people and thus their thoughts, ideas, and voices are necessary for this project. Ci3 will partner with long-time collaborator Marvinetta Penn, founder of Global Girls inc. a Chicago-based youth serving organization. Both organizations use arts-based practices to co-create with young people. In the first workshop, young people will consider the framework of reproductive justice to interrogate the structures that do or do not support their health and wellbeing. In the second, young people will use future thinking and speculative design to imagine worlds and ways of being that defy the world and rules that they see in front of them. Speculation pushes us to look beyond the failures of current systems to imagine a new and less limiting present as a starting point for understanding youth reproductive justice.


Ryan Cecil Jobson (Anthropology)
The Caribbean: Crucible of Modern Racial Formations

The Caribbean: Crucible of Modern Racial Formations A Transdisciplinary Research Idea Incubator (TRI2 ); this research incubator convenes University of Chicago faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students conducting research across the Anglophone, Hispanophone, and Francophone Caribbean in an effort to theorize the Caribbean as a historical locus of racial formation and a contemporary ground of racial reproduction. From the fifteenth century onward, the Caribbean has been a formative site for the fabrication of racial categories and antagonisms through practices of colonial settlement and violence. The 1661 Barbados slave code, for instance, can be understood as the first juridical codification of racial slavery that would later serve as a template for the eighteenth-century slave codes of South Carolina--a mainland colony dominated by Barbadian planters. In the nineteenth Century, the “Trinidad experiment” involved the recruitment of indentured labor from China and the Indian subcontinent to sustain the Caribbean plantation complex after emancipation and erect a “racial barrier between [the British] and the Negroes.” The unresolved categories of race and nation in the postemancipation Caribbean resound in recent xenophobic legislation such as the 2013 Constitutional Tribunal in the Dominican Republic, which stripped the citizenship of 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian-descent and enduring police and state violence against working class African-Caribbean communities such as the 2010 incursion on Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica and the 2011 state of emergency in Trinidad and Tobago. With the explicit charge to historicize questions of race in the contemporary Caribbean, the participants in this research incubator will inquire into questions including, but not limited to, the origins of race in the Caribbean plantation complex, the reverberations of race-thinking in postcolonial governance and party politics, the articulation of race through popular protest and cultural production, and the impact of race on the vulnerability of Caribbean peoples to the violences of state incursions and accelerating disaster events as a result of anthropogenic climate change.


SJ Johnson (English) and Shawné Michaelain Holloway (MCA Chicago)

Experiments in Artware Methodology for the Resistance of Racialized Surveillance

Directly inspired by Simone Browne’s book Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, “RUNME:susV.pkg” is speculative software (similar to programs like Ad Blocker) that alert
users to active data collection programs or malware in proximity of their browsing activities as they navigate the web. Made to be a piece of “artware” (software as art), RUNME:susV.pkg functions as both sousveillance and counterveillance, or forms of watching “the watchers.” This project brings critical attention to the movement of invisible overseers, and especially marginalized communities, as we live our lives online. Participants in this Lab will research, plan, and create the "alert songs" as well as other artware projects as part of an interdisciplinary workshop to learn and create scholarship around the formalization of iterative production models for quick and effective anti-surveillance initiatives. Students and faculty participating in this lab will employ methodologies in Software Studies and work across disciplinary methods of literary studies, surveillance studies, and new media studies. Core texts of the lab will include, Browne’s Dark Matters, the forthcoming handbook: Code as Creative Medium: A Teacher's Manual by Golan Levin and Tega Brain, Kara Keeling’s Queer Times, Black Futures, Neil Robert’s Freedom as Marronage, and Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble. All code and text generated in this lab will be compiled in a journal and distributed with an open source license.

In addition to the creation of the journal and RUNME:susV.pkg prototype, this lab will tackle questions about contemporary surveillance in relationship to older technologies of capture. Again, modeling Browne’s compelling linkage of historical surveillance tactics under slavery to the present moment’s capture of biometrics and personal data, we ask what escape from such systems can look like.

Learn more about Shawné.


David J. Knight (Political Science)
The Politics of Mass Incarceration: Bringing Students, Scholars, and Activists into Critical Conversation about Abolition Democracy

David J. Knight curated a course in the Winter Quarter 2021 that brought students into regular, weekly conversation with leading scholars, activists, and artists whose writing and work have been transformative to our collective understanding of racialized mass incarceration and of the political struggles aimed to disestablish it, referred to by some as abolition democracy. Through ongoing conversations, students were able to engage in dialogue with these visionaries about the prison industrial complex, their work, and how their own thinking and understanding has evolved in light of our current moment.

The course community read across a range of fields and genres, including scholarly work in the fields of political science, history, law, sociology, and critical prison studies, as well as documentary, podcast, long-form journalism, memoir, and poetry. By examining the rise of the carceral state in this way, the course community collectively contributed to a singular academic experience which engaged in ongoing themes and debates related to race and racism, prison and carceral space, racialized policing and political discourse, Black-led movements and prison uprisings, restorative justice and transformative justice, and abolition and abolition democracy.

The course guests included Brett Story (geographer, non-fiction filmmaker, and author of Prison Land, and director of The Prison in Twelve Landscapes), Danielle Sered (restorative justice activist, author of Until We Reckon, and director of Common Justice in New York City) and Chandeerah Davis (senior practitioner at Common Justice), James Forman (law professor and author of Locking Up Our Own) , Elizabeth Hinton (historian and author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime and America on Fire), Vesla Weaver (political scientist, co-author of Arresting Citizenship, and principal investigator of the Portals Policing Project), Dwayne Betts (poet, memoirist, lawyer, and author of A Question of Freedom and Felon), and Phil McHarris (sociologist and activist) and Thenjiwe McHarris (co-founder of the movement-building organization Blackbird and a strategist with the Movement for Black Lives).


Emily Masghati (History)
The Rosenwald Generation

The Rosenwald Generation is a history of the Julius Rosenwald Fund fellowship program, the first expansive foundation fellowship program to support Black scholars in the U.S. For the duration of the program from 1928 to 1949, the Rosenwald Fund awarded nearly 1000 fellowships to African Americans, sparking a proliferation of Black Ph.D.’s. The Fund officers took a special interest in social scientists from the program’s onset, contributing to the rise of what scholars refer to as the “golden age” of African American social science. With evidence from archival research that engages the perspectives of both the Rosenwald officials and their fellows, I found that the Rosenwald Fund asserted an expansive jurisdiction over Black knowledge production in the so-called field of race relations by funding the research of Black social scientists, sponsoring publications, and even subsidizing faculty appointments. The fellowship program thus transformed the political economy of race scholarship for a generation.

Although the Rosenwald Fund helped facilitate an efflorescence of race scholarship, it also had a heavy hand in limiting the parameters of acceptable Black social scientific work. The African American scholars who partnered with the Fund made compromises about what, where, and how they would study, but my research also uncovers significant evidence of resistance to the Fund’s ideological agenda on the part of the Rosenwald fellows. The Rosenwald Generation, the first monograph to explore in-depth the politics of the Rosenwald fellowship program, thus uncovers the processes by which paternalistic promotion and strategic denial functioned as two sides of the same coin. Ultimately, I argue that for mid-century liberal institutions, as exemplified by the Rosenwald Fund, elitism and ethnocentrism were mutually constitutive projects that decisively shaped the canon of mid-century race scholarship, the future of race-focused foundation philanthropy, and the place of Black scholars in the American academy.


Carmen Merport Quiñones (English)
Ojos Latinos

Ojos Latinos is an archival project that lovingly documents the lives of Latinos/as/xs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Inspired by a recent wave of Latina/o/x archives that use the Instagram platform to crowdsource documents from regional communities, this project invites Bay Area community members to use photographs, videos, and art to share stories that speak to their past, their present, and their hopes for the future. The archive seeks to document the diverse traditions, languages, and visual cultures of Latinos/as/xs living in the Bay Area as well as important landmarks and local institutions. Additionally, Ojos Latinos is in the process of gathering together testimonios about how Latinas/os/xs in the Bay Area have confronted the enormous challenges of the COVID-19 era. Submissions will be posted on the Ojos Latinos Instagram page and also on a website that will allow users to explore the archive in different ways. The project is directed by Carmen Merport Quiñones, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago, in consultation with Bay Area artists and community leaders, including Luz Elena Castro, founder of The Latino Photo Project.

Ojos Latinos engages in contemporary conversations about the representation of Latinos/as/xs in the US public sphere. Rather than leaving such discussions up to media professionals and academics, this project uses social media to encourage a wide array of Latinos/as/xs of different ages, races, occupations, and cultural backgrounds to explore how they wish to be seen. As a result, Ojos Latinos participates in a longstanding tradition of Latina/o/x community activism directed at the creation of a more democratic visual culture. The project also explores the affordances of digital media for multi-media storytelling projects. For more information, find us on Instagram (@Ojos_Latinos).

Learn more about Carmen


Kathryn Montemurro (Linguistics)
Inclusive Pedagogy in Linguistics

As part of the movement to improve curricular inclusion in linguistics, a group of graduate students propose a workshop series in Winter 2021 addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion as they relate to linguistics. In recent years, many linguists have been advocating for linguistics to make inclusion a priority. Although language is deeply intertwined with systems of oppression and marginalization, the field of linguistics has neglected to address marginalization and white supremacy within the field itself. In her 2020 address at the Linguistic Society of America, Anne Charity-Hudley spoke about the need to actively address issues of racial inclusion in linguistics and seek out relevant work in allied fields. In response, we are organizing a series focused on inclusive pedagogy, specifically relating to racial and Indigenous inclusion, in collaboration with neighboring departments at the University of Chicago. The series is intended for graduatestudents, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff.


Teresa Montoya (Anthropology) and Sarah Jessica Johnson (English)
Trac(e)ing Relations: Blackness & Indigeneity in the Americas

Inspired by new theorizations of blackness and indigeneity in literary formations, aesthetics, and political solidarities, Trac(e)ing Relations: Blackness & Indigeneity in the Americas engages these emergent intersections around the core theme of “relationality” through multiple modes of inquiry. To support these critical explorations across Black and Native Studies, this project will sponsor quarterly reading groups and workshops, film screenings and dialogues, as well as the development of a future course to be co-taught by project PIs Teresa Montoya (Anthropology) and Sarah Jessica Johnson (English). Given the current absence of a formal program dedicated to Native Studies at the University of Chicago, this project is also intended to be a formative step towards developing this curriculum and research on campus. Towards this latter goal, project funding will further support the hosting of a symposium on Indigenous Environmental Justice in conjunction with the Smart Museum, Newberry Library, and the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at Northwestern University. Planning is underway for a symposium in Autumn Quarter 2021. Trac(e)ing Relations: Blackness & Indigeneity in the Americas presents a platform to facilitate dialogue, sharing, and critique for students, faculty, and collaborators across broader Chicago.


Shantá R. Robinson (Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice)
Critical Discourse in Critical Methodologies

This new, graduate level qualitative methodology course introduces students to critical theory and its central tenets. In particular, students explore the history and contemporary framings of critical race theory, feminist theory, and critical race feminist theory, all of which emerged as a direct challenge to the dominant hegemonic framings and practices of empirical research. The course provides opportunities for students to deeply engage with pivotal scholarly literature, learn from and confer with leading critical theory-focused faculty from other institutions, and design a research project that fits their academic and programmatic goals. Final projects range from traditional journal articles using pre-collected qualitative data, drafted dissertation proposals, and polished professional conference proposals.

In 1994, scholar Cornel West stated, “Race is the most explosive issues in American life precisely because it forces us to confront the tragic facts of poverty and paranoia, despair, and distrust. In short, a candid examination of race matters takes us to the core of the crisis of American democracy”. The contemporary, pervasive structurally- permissive murders of Black people across the country—Black children (Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, etc.), Black men (George Floyd, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, etc.), Black women (Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Rekia Boyd, etc.), Black trans folk (Tony McDade, Dominique Fells, Riah Milton, etc.), and the dramatic rise of Anti-Asian violence show that there is no declining significance of race; indeed, it is as explosive and urgent a matter now as it was in 1994. Critical Discourse in Critical Methodologies responds directly to students’ calls for responsive research methods courses that centers and complicates the role and influence of race in rigorous social science studies.


Christopher Taylor (English)
Developing Asian American Studies

The Humanities Division of the University of Chicago has no faculty whose primary field of research and teaching is Asian American studies. Developed in the in the 1970s, Asian American studies has historically asked probing questions about topics such as racial formation, migration and displacement, and belonging. In the midst of the global pandemic and a terrible spike in anti-Asian violence across the United States, these questions remain as urgent as ever—and we need faculty here conducting research and teaching in this field.

This working group has two streams. First, we have assembled a list of experts in the field of Asian American studies to help assist us in thinking about hiring in Asian American studies. Through a series of consultations, these scholars will help us to develop our sense of how best to foster Asian American studies at the University of Chicago, to enhance our fluency in the field, and to identify other scholars with whom we should be in touch. With their assistance, we are trying to craft a plan to make Asian American studies a sustainable and durable component of humanistic study in the department, the division, and the university.

Second, on the basis of our consultations, we will plan a sequence of open talks from scholars of Asian American studies on their current research. These talks will be free and open to the public, so please look out for an announcement.